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AOC made a literal statement with her ‘tax the rich’ Met Gala gown

Infographic fashion had a moment on the red carpet last night, as Cara Delevingne also demanded to ‘peg the patriarchy’

With the devastation of the coronavirus turning the cracks of society’s inequalities into deep chasms, the past 18 months have been a politicising period of time to say the least. As a result, many have found themselves cycling through periods of online activism, familiarising themselves with its most popularised ideas and discourse. Be it – quite rightly – through the worldwide proliferation of BLM protests, the decimation of Palestine, or the climate crisis, a new generation have equipped themselves with all the songs and slogans of protest.

Perhaps, then, it was to be expected that guests at this year’s Met Gala would want to make some kind of “statement”. First out the gate was congresswoman Carolyn Maloney who wore a Suffragette-style dress with “equal rights for women” splashed across its purple and green wings – a kitsch, though still relevant, call for justice given the state of Texas’ near-total abortion ban. Then came Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, dressed by Aurora James in a white tuxedo-gown, with the words “tax the rich” emblazoned in bright red lettering across her back. “We really started having a conversation about what it means to be a working class women of colour at the Met,” the congresswoman said while on the red carpet. “And we said we can't just play along, but we need to break the fourth wall and challenge some of the institutions.” 

As could have been predicted, however, pundits have cried hypocrisy given that Ocasio-Cortez chose to attend the 35k-a-ticket Met Gala, let alone use the event as a platform to make a statement on wealth. What was presented by AOC and Aurora James as radically anti-capitalist did almost nothing to challenge the system itself. Not to mention that it was incredibly corny. It should be noted, though, that New York politicians are often invited to the Met free of charge and the dress clearly resonated with the public. By Monday evening, there were more than 100,000 tweets devoted to the very earnest (though poorly-conceieved) look. Whether AOC’s proposition was problematic or not – after all, rich people should obviously be taxed more – it’s reminiscent of the way in which the internet has sanitised and flattened the language of socialism into lite, Forever 21 catchphrases. See also: “eat the rich”. Slogans that gesture towards activism and a vague political conscience while being wholly vapid.

Of course, AOC is a formidable advocate for social justice and is well versed in these kinds of conversations but it’s worth noting how these moments parlay into the mainstream – because it wasn’t so long ago that leading designers were printing utterly hollow feminist slogans across extortionately priced t-shirts. It would seem we have not progressed. Yesterday evening, Cara Delevingne made the final branded proclamation of the night, wearing a corset stamped with “peg the patriarchy”. Pilfered, perhaps, from an Instagram account or a pithy demonstration placard. Cringeworthy? Extremely. But wrong? Not entirely. Whatever it is – and let’s call it Infographic Fashion – it’s about to go viral.